Over the last few weeks, I had been working on my paper, which asks this question: How does Canada’s Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model, central to Canadian sport policy, fall short in addressing the needs of immigrants?
As some may know, the two figures below describe Canada’s current version of the LTAD model. This, briefly, is the multi-stage framework that provides a pathway through which Sport Canada recommends an athlete should be developed from infancy to adulthood, beginning with initial stages concerned with developing fundamental physical literacy, middle “Excellence” stages concerned with developing sport-specific skills to focus more on high performance, and the final “Active for Life” stage concerning itself with having participants engage in physical activity for life.
The Challenge with Immigrant Integration & LTAD
LTAD was initially designed as a “cradle-to-grave pathway to serve all Canadians” (Grove et al. 2016, p. 11). However, a “one size fits all” approach just does not work for everyone, especially considering the socio-cultural factors that influence Canadian sport in certain directions (Thibault & Harvey, 2015). In particular, the unique needs of immigrants present 3 specific challenges to LTAD:
- First, immigrants find Canadian sport too structured, to a point where it can be “difficult [for them] to access” (ICC, 2014, p. 6). Indeed, the rise of technology and a cultural shift towards risk-aversion has meant unstructured, informal sport- like pick-up games popular in other countries- are on the decline in Canada. An overly structured system also makes sport more expensive and difficult to navigate.
- Second, many immigrants come to Canada with different sports/ physical literacy skills than their native-born peers, making it difficult for newcomers to enter the LTAD pathway. Current LTAD often neglects the many athletes who may be entering sport or developing physical literacy at an older age, or who develop at an advanced pace, and late-entry pathways must be incorporated in the model.
- Third, we reflect on the competitive focus of Canadian sport and LTAD model’s history, which can alienate many immigrants for whom sport is valued not for its competitive elements, but for giving the opportunity “to be healthy, fit and have fun” (ICC, 2014, p. 20). Indeed, there is a 9-to-1 resource allocation mismatch in funds given by government to competitive vs. community sport (Donnelly, 2012).
Out Proposal: Developing a New, Immigrant-Specific LTAD Framework
In the paper, I provide eight recommendations for LTAD, but they essentially come down to this: Just as Sport Canada has done in developing new LTAD models and pathways to address the needs of Aboriginal and disabled populations, a new immigrant-specific LTAD model should be developed. One preliminary proposal that I provide is below:
In the above model, the most notable differences from traditional LTAD is the addition of an “Awareness” stage (similar to one designed for athletes with disability), that focuses on the unique challenge of communicating sport options to newcomers. As well, to address how newcomers come to Canada with different physical activity skills, a supplemental “Skill Equalization” stage is proposed, where immigrants’ skills are evaluated and plans are then developed to ensure they can “catch up” to peers if needed, or advance to higher stages of LTAD. Beyond this, other recommendations are also summarized in the box for “Other Considerations to Ensure Effective Implementation.”
Bottom-Line: The LTAD model relies on implicit socio-cultural assumptions about values in Canadian sport, which do not always align with the needs of immigrants. or other groups. Consequently, a new immigrant-centered LTAD approach is suggested, although our proposal is at best a preliminary model in need of more refinement/ research.
Canadian Sport for Life. (2016). Long-Term Athlete Development 2.1. Retrieved from the CS4L website: http://sportforlife.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/LTAD-2.1-EN_web.pdf?x96000. [NOTE: This is the main policy document that is critiqued in this paper.]
Donnelly, P. (2012, July 23). Turning Canada’s Olympic Success into Increased Participation in Sport. The Star. Retrieved from: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/2012/07/23/turning_canadas_olympic_success_into_increased_participation_in_sports.html.
Grove, J. et al. (2016). Durable by Design: Active for Life. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Sport for Life Foundation. Retrieved from: http://sportforlife.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Active-for-Life-Jan-2016-web.pdf?x96000.
Institute of Canadian Citizenship (ICC) (2014). Playing Together: New Citizens, Sports & Belonging . Retrieved from the website if the Institute of Canadian Citizenship: https://www.iccicc.ca/site/pdfs/PlayingTogether_FullR%20Online_Final.pdf 20Full%20Report.pdf.
Thibault, L. & Harvey, J. (2013). Sport Policy in Canada. Ottawa, ON: University of Ottawa Press. [NOTE: This is a fantastic book providing a detailed history and sociological critique of Canadian sport policy and is also accessible in e-book format online at: https://ruor.uottawa.ca/bitstream/10393/30369/1/9780776620954.pdf.]